Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Gawker’s Nick Denton: I Paid Big Money for “McSteamy” Sex Tape

mcsteamyEarlier this year, Gawker Media’s Nick Denton announced that he was going to start paying for salacious clips, tips and other submissions, but that he hadn’t worked out the details. Looks like he figured it out: Denton says he paid the source who provided his blog network with the so-called “McSteamy” sex tapes that have earned him both a lot of traffic and  a lawsuit.

The not-so-sexy video clips, which Gawker published last month, involve “Grey’s Anatomy” star Eric Dane; his wife, Rebecca Gayheart; and former beauty queen Kari Ann Peniche. How did Gawker get their hands on them?

“Well, obviously we paid our contributor (and from the traffic, you can suppose quite handsomely!),” Denton told the the New York Times’s David Carr this morning.

I followed up with Denton, via IM, and he wasn’t much more forthcoming than that. But he did confirm that his blog network gave the money to Mark Ebner, who describes himself as an “award winning investigative journalist” who “has repeatedly positioned himself in harm’s way.” Ebner also runs the gossip site, Hollywood Interrupted.

Denton wouldn’t say how much he paid Ebner for the video, and I haven’t been able to reach Ebner himself. But I have a hunch that Ebner hasn’t received as much as, say, a Condé Nast freelancer can get for a feature piece.

The math: In the old days (last year) Denton was paying $7.50 for every 1,000 views, but he has likely reduced that rate as Gawker’s traffic has grown. Even if he kept that rate the same, Ebner would be getting $22,500 for the three million views the clip has generated to date. That’s nice money, but not life-changing.

But Denton is paying above and beyond that for the clip: Rather than posting it on the likes of Google’s (GOOG) YouTube, which likely would have taken down the video by now, he’s serving up the clip himself. Which means he’s paying every time someone views it. And now, he has legal bills, too.

What’s Denton in for, so far? He won’t say. But here’s the half-serious quip he used to conclude our IM chat: “Hey, this news business is expensive!”


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